Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), despite all its customer service woes and reports of people dropping cable in large numbers, had a good year.
In its fourth-quarter and year-end 2014 earnings release on Tuesday, the company reported that consolidated revenue increased by 6.4% while operating cash flow spiked by 6.9%, The company also increased its customer relationships by 358,000, a 67% Improvement from 2013.
In a prepared statement, CEO Brian Roberts highlighted the company's operating segments:
Cable's results, driven by High-Speed Internet and Business Services, demonstrate our focus on driving profitable growth and technology innovations, including our transformative X1 platform. This is bearing fruit in our operating performance, as we added 358,000 customer relationships, while video subscriber trends were the best in 7 years and in broadband we added over 1 million subscribers for the ninth year in a row.
NBCUniversal also had a standout performance in 2014, with 18% growth in operating cash flow, driven by a successful Sochi Olympics, continued momentum at NBC Broadcast, the successful opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley in Orlando, and strong box office performance from Universal Pictures.
Roberts spoke about the results and what to expect going forward in a conference call held immediately after the earnings numbers were released.
The dividend is going up, as are stock repurchases
Roberts kicked off the call with an overview of the year's financial performance and by announcing that Comcast would increase its dividend once again.
"As we reviewed these results and outlook with our board, we made the decision to raise our dividend by 11%, marking the seventh straight annual increase," the CEO said. "We've also increased our stock repurchase authorization to $10 billion and we plan to repurchase $4.25 billion worth of stock in 2015."
Roberts said at the close of the company's planned $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable (UNKNOWN:TWC.DL) an additional $5 billion would be devoted to the repurchasing program.
Buying NBC has paid off
"We take prudent risks and invest for profitable growth," Roberts said in his opening remarks. However, many thought Comcast less than prudent when it acquired a controlling interest in NBCUniversal in 2009. The CEO has proven his doubters wrong.
"The magnitude of the improvement has exceeded all of our expectations and the acquisition has already proven to be one of the best in our company's history " Roberts said.
NBCUniversal, which Comcast now owns 100% of after buying General Electric's 49% share in 2013, posted an 80% increase in operating cash flow and 7.5% revenue growth.
Harry Potter helped
Theme park revenue grew 17%, and the company "accelerated out growth every quarter during the year, pacing at nearly 30% in the fourth quarter," according to Roberts. Much of the can be attributed to Harry Potter, as Universal Studios Orlando in July 2014 opened a second attraction based on the books and films about the boy wizard.
Roberts also gave credit to the Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights that take place at both the Florida and California parks.
Roberts remains against Title II regulation
The CEO also took time in the call to denounce the Federal Communications Commission's effort to regulate the company's Internet service provider business by classifying ISPs as utilities under Title II of the Communications Act.
"Our past comments on the unnecessary risks associated with applying 1930s-style regulations to something as dynamic as the Internet remain the same," Roberts said, adding that he agrees with what President Barack Obama and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler say should be in the rules for an open Internet. "The disagreement boils down to what legal authority the FCC should use to put in place these rules."
Customer service is on the radar
On the subscription-based side of its business, Comcast had more than a few customer service problems in 2014. Roberts said transforming the customer experience was a 2015 priority.
"In short, we want customer service to be out best product and we have not always lived up to that," he said. "If we can reinvent and improve customer service we can make it easier for out customers to experience what we are confident is the best platform and the best content on the fastest network."